As humans, we are known for being creatures of habit in all sorts of ways, from how we dress to the music we listen to, films we like to watch, activities we enjoy and the food we like to eat. So, when our tried and tested ways of cooking for ourselves and our loved ones become disrupted, we can be left wondering what to do. With ingredients for recipes perhaps not being in full supply in the current climate, we’re being forced into making decisions based on the products that are available, taking us out of our comfort zone and throwing us in at the deep end. The good news is that food is vast and varied; we just tend to forget that when our routine is never questioned. So instead of panic buying and hoarding all the fresh, frozen and store cupboard essentials we think we can’t live without, I want to motivate you to try something new; looking at other ways to create wholesome, tasty, immune-boosting dishes for you and all the family.
Now is the perfect time to embrace this new lifestyle. We may have to weather the storm for some weeks or months to come, so use this as an opportunity to really see what is available and add it to your diet. When I had a look around the shops recently, I could see that the focus has been on store cupboard tins, packets and jars, along with frozen food, from ready meals to pizza, pies and peas, but luckily fresh ingredients are still readily available. Remember, not everything needs to come from a tin, jar or packet but it’s the wave of panic that rises every now and again that makes us forget that. There are plenty of different vegetables for instance, which can be blanched and then frozen and this can easily be done in a Steam Oven under the blanching programme. This process steams the vegetables until they are partially cooked, allowing you to freeze and reheat when you’re ready to use. Think peas, carrots, broccoli, runner beans, asparagus and any other leafy greens that take your fancy.
Mince appears to be top of the list for a lot of households, as it can be used for so many recipes – chilli, cottage pie, spaghetti Bolognese, ragu, meatballs and burgers to name just a few. One option is to look for Quorn mince instead, which tastes just as good and is high in protein and low in fat. Alternatively, use mince substitutes such as lentils, beans, mushrooms, cauliflower, potatoes or jackfruit. Cook them up as you would normally, break into small, bite-sized chunks then mix into your recipe just as you would with the mince. Mushroom or lentil ragu is a lovely dish and if you want to add some meaty flavour, throw in some thinly sliced pieces of salami or any other cured meat that you like. You don’t need much to deliver a big flavour punch. Another option is to see what non-minced meat is available and cut into smaller pieces. This works particularly well for a chunky ragu Bolognese and you never know, you may even prefer it over your old tried and tested ways.
Another store cupboard essential that seems to be in short supply at the moment is rice but don’t worry as there are plenty of other grains that are just as good, if not better. Look for barley, millet, amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat and pearl couscous – they all come with instructions on how to cook and make fantastic rice replacements. If you have a Steam Oven you can cook any type of grain quickly and simply and the method is always the same – add enough water to cover the grain by 1cm and steam on 100˚C for the amount of time the packet suggests.
When a recipe calls for rice or pasta, another larder ingredient in short supply right now, consider using vegetables instead. Remember the trend for spiralizers a few years back? Well now’s the time to bring yours out of hiding and use it for courgettes, carrots or even parsnips, which all make great spaghetti substitutes. If you don’t have one of these gadgets, you can achieve the same effect by shredding into thin ribbons using a vegetable peeler. It may take longer but the results are the same. As an alternative to traditional long grain rice, think about creating tasty cauliflower rice instead. Blitz raw cauliflower in a food processor or use a box grater and stir fry for a fried rice flavour or cook for two to three minutes in a Steam Oven.
Remember, food is incredibly varied and there are plenty of options, alternatives and substitutes out there. For more ideas and inspiration, visit our blog and check out our tasty recipes.
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